The LOLs And Lows Of Online Dating In The Coronavirus Era

Georgie Hoole Georgie Hoole - EXECUTIVE EDITOR

The LOLs And Lows Of Online Dating In The Coronavirus Era

So, what’s it like to be single and ready to mingle in a world where mingling is not allowed? We found out.

According to reports, there has never been a better time to join a dating app. These online platforms are seeing huge increases in signups and conversations since we were all told to stay indoors — and Tinder received a record number of swipes in a day last week. But, how is that so, when there’s no promise of a physical date in the near future?

We spoke to sex and dating expert and co-founder of BARE Dating, Gillian Myhill, as well as a couple of daters, Freddie* and Jamie, who are currently trying to navigate this strange new world.

Freddie*, 26

Freddie met Laura* on Hinge at the beginning of March, just before this shit show started. They crammed a load of dates in because they were really enjoying each other’s company, and then BOOM. COVID-19. A huge, inconceivably large, cock block got in the way of it all. They had their last date the day Boris decided to shut the pubs. I chatted to him about how things are going now.

Do you still talk?

“Yeah, we still talk daily. We’ve moved on from sticking to text though and will spend time talking on the phone; hearing someone else’s voice other than the people you’re isolating with I think is really key at times like this.” 

What do you talk about? Is conversation different now to how it was before?

“I’d say the conversation is definitely different from how it was before; coronavirus just seems to overtake everything. We’ll talk about how our days are but we’ll always end up back at big C-19.” 

Freddie has promised Laura the Best Date Ever when this is all over.

“There’s sadly only so many times you can say ‘oh I really wish we could do something tonight’ before it becomes a bit, meaningless?”

Despite everything, Freddie is exclusively dating Laura. But, commenting on the fact that more people are using dating apps than ever before, he said he couldn’t think of anything worse.

“It can’t be fun trying to juggle multiple dates when you’re confined to one place. ‘What did you do today?’ ‘Moved from my bed to the kitchen, worked for 8 hours and then went from my kitchen back to bed’.”  

He’s right, it can’t be thrilling — but he does admit that he finds it tricky to keep things interesting himself.

“I think we’re both pretty stressed out by the whole situation, stressed out by work as well. It’s something I’m certainly trying to work on though!”

How would you say this affects you emotionally?

“Emotionally, it’s been pretty shit. Going from seeing someone 2/3 times a week to nothing is a bit of a shift. I’d say we’re both open, emotional people and we’ve made it clear (despite the short space of time) that we care about one another, and it’s shit hearing ‘I’m having a bad day’ and feeling powerless to offer something like a hug. Talking is great, I know that, but I can’t even be like, ‘right you’ve had a bad day, I’m coming over, I’ll pop to the shop and cook for us’ — there’s no spontaneity.”

Jamie, 24

I approached Jamie after he told me that he’d started FaceTime dating. I desperately wanted to know more because, to me, an avid hater of video calls with anyone except my mum, the concept seemed horrifying. He takes us through his lockdown dating journey:

What’s the difference between FaceTime/Houseparty dates and dating IRL?

“The main difference is that it definitely seems to happen more often than ‘regular’ dating, I’m a one-man at a time kind of person but what would generally be a couple of dates spread over a month seems to be condensed into a week!

In an odd way it [virtual dating] feels more natural than regular dating. On a “normal” date there may be pressure to live-it-out — as in you can’t leave too early and you must ensure the conversation is consistently flowing. Whereas over video chat there are no expectations, it could be a 15 minute catch up or a whole night. Also, a normal date in London comes at a cost so virtual is way cheaper… depending on how big a drinker you are!

There’s also no pressure around the physical as you know that it’s pretty much impossible. And if that was their only intention it would crumble quite quickly online. So it’s actually a good way to weave out those that may be looking for something more casual than you are.”

How do you initiate a video date?

“Someone has to suggest the video chat, you can’t just randomly ring them… I would find that way too weird. You set it up the same way you would a regular date.”

And what do you do on these dates? Chat over dinner?

“Once on the “date” you would initially just chat with a drink in hand just as you would on a first date. Then you can discover other apps that allows you to play games which can prove to be great fun… unless you’re dating me, I’m way too competitive. Luckily I can easily disguise that as excitement. I know a few of my friends are doing dinner dates over FaceTime.. that’s a little too bold for me. I don’t like watching someone eat on a good day so if I can avoid it then that’s even better! Tends to mainly be a post-dinner drinks kind of affair.”

How much effort do you put into how you look? As much as you would on an ordinary date?

“The big thing I did notice is that it’s quite difficult to not look too much at yourself in the camera, you want to impress but it’s quite distracting. For this reason I want to make sure I look good so then you can feel more confident and focus more on the conversation. That being said, I did order a clip on studio light with 5 settings and multiple brightness options… so when I’m lit up like a Christmas tree on my virtual date I feel great.”

Yaaas! So here for that. And finally, do you think this will change the way we all date in the future?

“I’d like to think it [virtual dating] would carry on past lockdown… I wonder if it’ll become a mainstream thing. “We met in the lockdown of 2020!” Would it make a fabulous wedding story? ABSOLUTELY.

However, what I am more intrigued by is what an eventual real date will be like. Will the first “real” date feel like an eighth date or will it feel like you’re back at date number one? I suppose it could feel a bit like dating someone that you’ve known as a friend… maybe?”

Gillian Myhill, co-founder of BARE Dating

BARE Dating is a fairly new dating platform, where users can upload photos, choosing how much of it they’d like to reveal. Gillian says that BARE have seen a 50% increase in sign ups since the lockdown, so it’s fair to say that she knows a thing or two about dating apps, and how they can be a lifeline for many in these trying times.

We asked Gillian for her juiciest tips and tricks, discussing everything from good lighting to remote controlled sex toys. 

Any tips for preparing for a FaceTime first date? 

“Set a date and time. It’s important that both of you are prepared for the call, spontaneity can come later, a first video call is not the right time for surprise.

Prepare yourself, choose your outfit — this will help you get in the mood for what’s to come. I’m sure I’m not the only one over the past couple of weeks that has let my fashion sense slide.

Do your hair and freshen your makeup. Lighting can make us all look gorgeous, so play around with what you have available.

Set the scene, make sure you are in the right environment for the situation. For a first date, a candlelit image of you lying on a bed in your best Agent Provocateur knickers may be a bit much.

Ensure that you have enough charge on your phone or laptop and that your housemates (if you have any) will not walk into the room.”

And how can they keep things interesting?

“Be creative: It seems like we are going to be living under restrictions for some time so as things start to grow you will need to think outside the box. These tips can also be used for longer term lovers as well who may find themselves separated from each other.

Try setting up a dinner party together, you could plan what you make – set the menu together, or order from the same restaurant. Dress up for the occasion, set a playlist to listen to, start with a homemade cocktail perhaps.

There are many great online experiences offered currently, you could go to the theatre together alone in your respective homes. For example, The National Theatre is streaming plays for free on Thursday evenings.” 

How are dating apps providing a lifeline for people who are alone?

“I’m often telling people how dating platforms are not necessarily only used to find dates, they are a great way to widen your network, make a new friend or even a hidden business or professional connection.

A lot of us are feeling isolated – and this can lead to loneliness and anxiety. Dating platforms truly are a lifeline at the moment, providing much needed human contact and some excitement in these dark times.”

How do you think coronavirus will shape or change the way people date? 

“I think that coronavirus will change the way people date, and view dating. People are realising that there is a huge pool of people out there, and with coronavirus putting everyone on lockdown, dating has suddenly become global. People aren’t limited by physical dates and locations, you can literally set virtual dates up with anyone in the world.

Though we thrive on human connection, we are also learning that we don’t have to waste our time and can discover who is suited to us without even leaving the house. This is also making dating safer.” 

But what about sex? 

“By nature, humans need physical contact, so this won’t change much — in fact we will probably see a surge in dating. However, I think people will continue to virtually date as it’s more fun and safer.

In the short term [after lockdown measures are lifted] I think we are going to see a dramatic spike in hook ups. Personally, I do not really see anything wrong with these as long as both parties are respectful of each other and practice safe sex.”

How does sexting come into this? Do you have any tips for novices? 

“Sexting is a great way to get your juices going! Sex makes us feel sexy, as an extension to this, sexting can have the same desired effect. My boyfriend and I have been together for two years and it was only recently that we first tried sexting — I was amazed how turned on I got.

As far as tips go, feel things out a bit first, don’t jump straight into the really dirty bits. Start slowly. (We have the time currently to stretch things out a bit.)

Asking questions can be very sexy, particularly if you are speaking to a partner that you’ve not yet had the opportunity to have had physical space together yet. If you get to the playful part — sending directions or instructions can also be very alluring.

There is also a great range of toys that can be controlled remotely via WiFi, great for long-distance sex. Toys have come a long way and having the ability to control and stimulate your partner can be very satisfying.”

*Names have been changed to maintain anonymity.

Also published on Medium.

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